With the average tenure of one year per company, tech employees are one of the least motivated ones.

If even average Google’s employees aren’t motivated to work in the company for more than 365 days, this surely doesn’t bring good news to smaller teams and startups.

What’s more, it’s clear that developers and testers are prone to be unmotivated, and the high demand for the profession doesn’t help.

The costs of employee turnover include costs of recruitment, on-boarding, team-building events and dealing with organizational issues.

On top of that, unhappy employees are much less motivated: the Fortune study showed that being satisfied with work makes an employee a lot more productive.

10 ways to motivate technical employees

These high turnover rates and lack of motivation require team managers and business owners to find a new approach to tech teams.

Developers and testers perform a lot of intellectual work, while physically they are located in the same place. This means, the work quickly gets draining and mundane - and it’s up to team managers and project managers to change the situation.

Here are 10 tried-and-proven methods of improving your team’s happiness, and this, in turn, will lead to higher productivity and reduced turnover rates.

Listen and identify

Tech employees tend to be introverted, which means, they aren’t likely to speak up about issues immediately.

It’s common for tech specialists to let issues pile up until they lead to burnout and unbearable dissatisfaction. Managers have to get ahead with identifying problems and preventing miscommunication.

Here are a couple of methods that you can use to implement listening and communicating into your routine.

  • Have one-on-one meetings: you have to face employees individually, talking to them about work progress, positive and negative developments, getting feedback on their work. Don’t be afraid to ask straight, if they find their work boring and unfulfilling.

  • Leave office settings: When you listen to your employees outside social settings, you’ll likely notice that they become more open about sharing their plans and ambitions. You can use this information to provide opportunities that correlate with their life goals.

  • Talk about life outside the office. If you know what interests and goals your team members have in personal lives, you will be able to see if their professional work correlates with personal priorities.

Use new technology

Software development, testing, marketing, design are dynamic fields where new practices are introduced every day.

It’s easy for tech team members to feel outdated and insecure about their professional abilities, especially if the company doesn’t encourage them to explore new tools and methods.

  • Encourage your employees to share expertise: If you have a single Kotlin developer, ask him to hold workshops or seminars in the office;

  • Support learning: If you know that an employee is learning a new programming language or framework, support them by giving projects that have that tool in the stack;

  • Do projects for fun: If you have time, start exploring technologies like AI, big data, Internet of Things. This will help your employees be up to date with current trends and appreciate their competence more.

Provide training and growth opportunity

Encouraging your team members to learn within your team and company is just the beginning of the process. You need to provide access to external resources: conferences, online classes, courses. If you have an opportunity to invite industry experts to host a talk in your company, do that, too.

  • Implement a learning management system: if you are investing in courses, books, and study materials, you need to control the results. The learning management software will provide you with detailed reports, create personalized study plans for employees, and show issues on the learning curve.

  • Go to conferences as a team: attending conferences together is a great way to introduce all your teammates to opinion leaders of the field and create memorable experiences.

Recognize employees’ achievement

If an employee shows responsibility, self-motivation, and improved skills, you need to remark on that.

It’s better to do it one-on-one to not breed the unnecessary competition within the team. You want to show the employee that you appreciate the input, not turn it into a teaching moment.

Also, talk about the ways these improvements and contributions relate to the company’s global goals and the employee’s career.

  • Visualize successes in reports: if an employee can see improvements on graphs, the effect from your praise will be stronger.
  • Focus on the bigger picture: constantly remind employees about final goals and keep them in touch with end-users.

Don’t let the developers fall into a trap of coding for the sake of it. Praise them on being thoughtful about end-users.

Encourage friendly competition

Implementing friendly competition is one of the most challenging aspects of team management. While you want to encourage employees to look up to each other, you want to avoid turning it into office politics.

  • Promote games and quizzes where people can show their intellectual abilities and talents without worrying about how the performance will affect their paycheck.

  • Avoid letting new employees compete against each other. All people have different onboarding speed. Some will need 2-3 days to adapt, while for others it takes a week. Don’t let less adaptive team members feel inept immediately.

  • Be transparent about competition. If you feel that team members compete against each other, you can talk to them individually. Explain that it’s a positive thing and that they can’t “lose the game”. Make sure that developers don’t feel constrained by the fear of falling behind.

Increase mobility

When employees know that the company cares about their work-life balance, they feel appreciated.

Adapt to their sick dates, personal commitments, and unproductive days.

Make sure team members can overcompensate for missed hours - encourage overtimes and spontaneous spikes of productivity.

  • Embrace remote work: You should prepare tools for communication and task management. Use Slack and Skype for communication, Hubstaff for hour tracking, Jira for productivity measurement.

  • Employees don’t have to report on everything. If a team member has to report on each office break, it will get tiring quickly. Show trust to your employees and let results speak for themselves.

  • Talk through doubts. If you have concerns about employee’s productivity, address them immediately. Low performance is a sign of a boring workload or burn out - and both are issues that you want to address.

Provide and receive real-time feedback

Creating a long feedback loop is the worst mistake you can make during project management. When developers receive code on their feedback weeks after it was passed for revision, they won’t remember the details anymore. Not only long feedback loops stall the project’s progress, but they also decrease the team’s motivation to perform better.

  • Automate code revisions: Use software to check code quality to quickly provide feedback.

  • Assign responsible members: If a person, who’s responsible for revisions, has too much workload, try peer-to-peer code review. Developers can monitor each other’s code and leave suggestions.

  • Create a separate communication channel for feedback. Make a chat where developers only share code-related suggestions - so that organizational details aren’t lost.

Be transparent about problems

Managers are often hesitant when it comes to talking about issues within the company.

As much as you’d like to save face and increase the team’s optimism, honesty should be the priority.

If you avoid speaking about problems, the team will feel the presence of the elephant in the room. The lack of transparency will not help the team’s relationships.

  • Talk about problems as soon as they come up. Make group calls or meetings where you’ll talk about recent issues and ask for the team’s inputs.

  • Conduct brainstorming sessions. You shouldn’t just notify the team about problems, but also encourage them to contribute solutions.

  • Don’t blame anyone. Focus on problems with work organization, systems, established within the company, rather than shifting accusations to personal contributions and skills.

Turn work into play

Tech specialists love solving problems and playing games.

If you recognize the tasks as gaming challenges, it will be easier to motivate team members to approach tasks creatively.

Don’t overdo it - approaching each task like a game will turn it into a gimmick.

  • You can use the gaming approach for particularly difficult tasks or problematic clients.
  • Introducing gaming into teamwork and on-boarding: all activities that are related to improving the team’s expertise and communication can be gamified.
  • Use trophies and medals to reward employees for outstanding performance.

Bottom line

Increasing the tech team’s motivation and reducing the churn rate isn’t done in one day. Using just one approach from the list won’t improve the situation much - you need a complex approach that incorporates each aspect from our list.

Start planning motivational activities. You could take all the methods that we described above, and put them on your calendar.

Don’t rush to present half-baked teambuilding events to your team - it will likely come across as unnatural.

Only once there is a clear framework and a detailed schedule, you can notify the team about upcoming changes.

Author's Bio: Alexey Kutsenko is the Head of Digital Marketing of DDI Development Company . He is experienced in the development of Marketing and Employer Branding Strategy for companies in different industries. He knows how to do the right marketing and watches all current industry trends.

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